2/3rds Of Florida Without Power, Record Outages Biggest Problem In Irma Recovery

FEMA This Morning Saying 15-Million People Don’t Have Electricity

Hurricane Irma set a harrowing record for most power ever knocked out by a storm. It’s more than double the number of people who lost power due to Hurricane Sandy, spread over a much larger area. It’s by far the biggest issue right now: about 2/3rds of customers in the state do not have electricity. And it may prevent many from returning home, who perhaps otherwise could.

The Atlantic reports a big chunk of the state’s electrical grid will need a “wholesale rebuild”. Just a few years ago, with a lot of assistance from the federal government, Florida dramatically upgraded its power system, which was considered to be one of the best in the country, and won awards for stability in previous storms.

While downed trees are still an issue virtually everywhere, insurance companies say property damage is only about a quarter of what they expected. Florida’s citrus groves held up OK. Bloomberg says estimates are now around $50-billion instead of $200-billion.

Meteorologists say that’s the result of a lucky break in the path the storm eventually took. Because it tacked inland, it actually pushed water out of bays and rivers instead of sucking it in (remember the manatees that got stranded)?

That sidestepped truly devastating storm surges because by the time the water did return, the storm had lessened in strength.

Miami Beach will reopen to traffic today, as will Miami and Ft. Lauderdale airports, and some parts of the Florida Keys (but only to residents).

Cars lined up to get onto Miami Beach this morning (Miami Herald)

Continuous coverage is still available at the Miami Herald, CNN, and The Guardian.

Who’s Who Of Dems Jumping On “Medicare For All” Bandwagon

Just about every Democrat who’s seen as a 2020 Presidential hopeful is rushing forward to co-sponsor the bill, long-advocated by Bernie Sanders. But they better be careful. It’s easy right now. (About as easy as it was for Republicans to repeatedly pass Obamacare repeals when they knew they had no chance it’d be signed into law.) Much harder if one of them wins, and the rest have to try to pass a dauntingly large, expensive piece of legislation. Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, the list goes on… They’ll all be co-sponsors of Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare for All” bill when he releases it Wednesday.

We’re not saying it’s bad. Just that, as Margot Sanger-Katz writes in the New York Times, it could prove to be a trap as much as an opportunity. And frankly, we are a little irritated at the unabashed opportunism on display right now, especially when this move represents no risk, putting nothing on the line, and improving nothing for any American in the near-term.

Someone like Hawaii’s Brian Schatz, who’s put forth a proposal to allow people to buy into Medicaid, (which is now even being eyed by some Republicans as a way of bludgeoning private insurers back in to under-served markets), gains a lot more of our respect. (He’s signing on to Sanders’ plan too.) As does Sanders, who’s been railing about this stuff since way before it was ‘cool’.

It also strikes us as a bit ironic that while Democrats are sliding to the left of Obamacare, Republicans are starting to take ownership of something that looks very much like Obamacare (see next story).

Senate HELP Committee (The ‘H’ Stands For Health) Hits Some Bumps In The Road While Trying To Shore Up Obamacare

The Committee holds another round of hearings today; Chairman Lamar Alexander says he hopes to have some legislation ready by the end of the week.

But according to The Hill some Democratic staffers are griping that Republicans are moving the goalposts. While they haven’t backed off from the idea of a bipartisan effort that will cement cost-sharing payments to insurance companies by taking them out of the hands of President Trump, they’re accused of trying to sneak in little tweaks that would accomplish some of what the broader Republican bills that failed would’ve done.

Republicans have responded that of course that’s what they’re doing, because they need to propose something that actually has a chance of passing. Committee Chair Alexander saying: “To get a Republican president and a Republican House and a Republican Senate just to vote for more money won’t happen in the next two or three weeks unless there’s some restructuring.”

Senate HELP Committee Chair Lamar Alexander

“Half Court Buzzer Beater Of A Health Plan”?

And the pair of Senators with what’s being called a “half court buzzer beater of a health plan” didn’t quite fulfill their aim of releasing it Monday. Still, NBC News got hold of a draft of a proposal, and funding formulas, so they’re pretty close. The proposal by Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy, starts out softer than previous Republican plans, but ends up being potentially even more brutal. More so than any of the now-failed plans, it moves responsibility onto states to design and implement their own systems, providing federal funds in the form of block grants.

It also kind of rewards states that did not expand Medicaid to protest Obamacare when it first came out. It does that by doling out funding on a “per person” basis, meaning states would eventually get an equal amount for each eligible individual, even if they’re not currently receiving benefits. This also means some states would get less federal money than they do now.

The biggest blow could come in 9 years, because the bill includes zero mention of any federal funding after that, potentially leaving state health care systems to individually fend for themselves .



UN Hits North Korea With Strongest Sanctions Yet, Following Last Week’s Nuke Test

For the first time, sanctions will include oil supplies, something China has pushed back hard against until now. Many reports characterize the U.S. “falling short”, since the new sanctions only limit oil shipments, instead of cutting them off entirely. We think there’s another way of looking at it: it gives the U.S. one more rung on the ladder, should the situation escalate further, which it almost certainly will.

We point you to two very interesting articles, one by our former colleague, Mike Chinoy, who suggests Trump send Defense Secretary Mattis to Pyongyang post-haste, to deliver a tough reality check. Another which chronicles the experiences of a Russian film director. His insights into the differences between Soviet era Russia and modern-day North Korea are compelling.

Bridge between China and North Korea


Trump’s “Election Integrity” Commission Transitions From Something Dumb Into Something Dangerous

Back in July, we pointed to the almost comically sober agenda for the group’s first meeting, saying the most interesting thing seemed to be the “Short Break”.

But this time, there’s plenty of crazy on the agenda.

Mother Jones has a very comprehensive story, which points out not a single person of color, or woman is scheduled to testify today. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is calling for the Commission’s abolition. Of course it won’t be. Others have called for Democrats on the Committee to resign. So far they haven’t.


Trump Administration Will Deregulate Something That Isn’t Even Regulated Yet

Self-driving cars won’t have to be approved for safety by the The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration before they’re allowed out on the road. The Obama Administration had intended to do that. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao is expected to announce the change in policy today.

A member of a Conservative think-tank quoted by Bloomberg, sums up the Trump approach as: “a light regulatory touch.” We didn’t realize “light” was synonymous with “none”.

There are a more twists and turns ahead. Bipartisan legislation is well underway to regulate self-driving vehicles. But it’s not yet clear whether self-driving trucks are headed for a separate regulatory path or will be covered in legislation for passenger cars. The Senate Commerce Committee holds a hearing devoted to this topic today. One would think self-driving trucks would come into wide use before cars, given the huge cost advantages to businesses, and the fact that the trucking industry has been ahead on many of the huge technological innovations of the past decades (including the use of GPS satellites.) But widespread use of self-driving trucks could come at the cost of hundreds of thousands of well-paying jobs. Would the President go for that?

Uber’s Otto Self-driving truck


Why IS Steve Bannon Wearing 2 Shirts?

We realize this line of inquiry is completely meaningless, but for some reason that question’s been stuck in our heads, (and thankfully Morwenna Ferrier’s from The Guardian too), more than anything Trump’s recently fired Chief Strategist said during his 60 Minutes interview. Which got us thinking, maybe the President is right: it pays to look natty (he made an obvious and extreme exception for Bannon and look how that turned out. Although Scaramucci was very well dressed. Yeah, none of this makes sense…)